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6 Best Places to Live in New York

By: Susan Finch
August 20, 2021

Thinking of moving to New York? It's easy to see why the Empire State is so tempting to newcomers. New York is home to the biggest city in the United States, diverse job opportunities, and world-renowned higher education institutions.

If you're ready to move but aren't sure where the best places to live in New York are, it all depends on whether you want history, an urban metropolis, outdoor fun, or a little bit of everything. Rental prices also range from the highest in the country to extremely affordable.

Not sure where to start? Here, we did the work for you and rounded up some of the best places to live in New York.

1. New York

  • Population: 8,336,817
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $5,748
  • Median Household Income: $63,998
  • Walk Score: 88
  • Transit Score: 84
  • Bike Score: 70

The Dutch settled New York City in 1608 as an integral seaport and trading post. It’s also where Geoge Washington lost a series of battles against the British. The city briefly served as the new nation's capital under the United States Constitution and hosted the inauguration of the first President of the United States. By the mid-1800s, immigrants arrived from Europe and turned New York City into a cultural melting pot as the economy boomed.

According to our Apartment List Renter Migration Report, people move to New York to get a taste of the Big Apple from Philadelphia, Miami, and Washington. When New Yorkers are ready to leave, they head to Miami, Philadelphia, and Atlanta.

New York City attracts college students, millennials, families, and retirees looking for new opportunities and a diverse culture against a vibrant urban backdrop. The high cost of living and average rent in New York City can be daunting, but job opportunities are plentiful. Financial services, healthcare, professional and technical services, retail, manufacturing, and educational services are just some of the industries in New York City. Locals also come to explore opportunities in entertainment from Broadway to film and television.

College students and collegiate staff have their pick of world-class institutions in the Big Apple. New York University, Baruch College, Barnard College, Fordham University, and several other institutions make the city an academic powerhouse. Families are also welcome, but rentals are competitive in the best New York neighborhoods with highly ranked public schools and kid-friendly amenities.

New York City is a dense wonderland of attractions, dining, pubs, cafes, shopping, and parks. It's wise to hunt for New York City apartments that align with your lifestyle to make the most of your neighborhood. The West Village (or Greenwich Village) is ideal for college students, pub crawlers, creatives, and families looking for a leafy backdrop. The East Village is perfect for independent spirits and anyone working in lower Manhattan. The Financial District, Upper West Side, Upper East Side, Midtown, Chelsea, Harlem, and Soho are among the most popular neighborhoods around New York City.

Outdoor space is a commodity in a city like New York, which is why renters flock to Central Park, Bryant Park, Fort Tryon Park, Fort Washington Park, and the boroughs for outdoor fun. Beaches, idyllic gardens, wildlife refuges, and kayaking along the Hudson also treat locals to an urban reprieve. The outer boroughs are booming, and rents have risen over the last decade, but you will get more space and proximity to green space when you live outside of Manhattan.

2. Buffalo

  • Population: 255,284
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,326
  • Median Household Income: $37,354
  • Walk Score: 68
  • Transit Score: 49
  • Bike Score: 65

Buffalo grew as a small trading community around 1789 and served as a cornerstone of the 19th-century industrial revolution. The city also played an integral terminus for the Underground Railroad, where freed slaves crossed the Niagara River to Fort Erie, Ontario. Others stayed and settled in Buffalo. The city's port also continued to develop during this period and expanded passenger and commercial traffic. Today, Buffalo is the second-largest city in New York and remains desirable for its central location. The city is less than 100 miles from Toronto, 20 miles to Niagara falls, and 76 miles to Rochester.

Buffalo's economy is a mix of industrial, manufacturing, technology, healthcare, retail, and service-oriented industries. Unemployment is lower than in other parts of the state and comes with a more affordable cost of living and inexpensive housing. College students attend the University at Buffalo, as well as a mix of private institutions and community colleges.

Buffalo's deep roots in American history can be felt around the city. The Buffalo & Erie County Naval and Military park features vessels and monuments that are preserving the country's aquatic military presence. Buffalo was also the inauguration site of President Theodore Roosevelt, with a namesake building that commemorates the inauguration and Buffalo's Pan-Am expo of 1901.

Buffalo also offers many cultural stops, including the Frank Lloyd Wrights' Martin House, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and Shea's Performing Arts Center. Pubs and dining can be found downtown, along with Canalside, an outdoor waterfront park with ice skating, fireworks, and year-round events.

Despite its reputation for cold weather, Buffalo is home to one of the oldest urban parks systems in the United States. Locals head to Delaware Park along the waterfront, Elmwood Village for eclectic shopping and dining, and Tifft Nature Preserve for wildlife watching. Paths and greenspace are plentiful around Forest Lawn, where notable Americans such as President Millard Filmore and singer Rick James are buried.

3. Rochester

  • Population: 205,695
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,099
  • Median Household Income: $35,590
  • Walk Score: 65
  • Transit Score: 43
  • Bike Score: 61

Rochester is the 4th largest city in New York and was developed after the American Revolution. The area was settled by a wave of English-Puritan immigrants from New England looking for agricultural opportunities. The land around Rochester was attractive for its proximity along Lake Ontario, the Genesee River, and the addition of the Erie Canal aqueduct. Notable Americans from Rochester included Susan B. Anthony who helped usher in the women's suffrage movement and guarantee women's right to vote.

Unemployment is higher in Rochester than the national average, but Industrial growth and innovation have long been synonymous with the city. Rochester is the birthplace of notable companies, including Eastman Kodak, Xerox, Bausch & Lomb, Western Union, and Wegmans. Today's most prominent employers include the University of Rochester, Rochester Regional Health, Wegmans, Paychex, and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). College students flock to RIT and the University of Rochester.

For a taste of local history, the National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House educates on the history and legacy of the champion of women's rights. The Rochester Museum & Science Center is part museum, part living laboratory. The George Eastman Museum honors the founder of Eastman Kodak and gives an overview of the long history of photography as news, memory-making, information, and art.

Situated outside the city center, Highland Park is among the nation's premier urban parks. The Erie Canal Trail once fueled the economy during the 1800s but now serves as a recreational area for locals and visitors. The Highland Botanical Park and Lamberton Conservatory welcome visitors to a series of greenhouses, plant, and flower displays for more outdoor tranquility.

4. Syracuse

  • Population: 142,327
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,407
  • Median Household Income: 142,327
  • Walk Score: 60
  • Transit Score: 44
  • Bike Score: 50

French missionaries first arrived in Syracuse in the 1600s, and eventually established a fur trade. The city was unique for its "Salt Lake" that is now called Onondaga Lake in honor of the historic Native American tribe. The city flourished with the help of its salt industry, automobile companies, and furniture manufacturing.

Today, Syracuse is a significant commercial, industrial, and transportation hub for the Northeast. The service industry is also growing in Syracuse, attracting college grads and Millenials looking for new opportunities. Syracuse has a higher crime rate than most cities its size in the country and requires caution when picking out the best neighborhood and exploring the urban backdrop.

There's plenty to see and do around Syracuse, including the Great New York State Fair. The annual festival boasts over 500 free performances in less than two weeks, with touring acts and blockbuster performances. For a look at the area's history, the Erie Canal Museum is home to the National Register 1850 Syracuse Weighlock Building, where canal cargo was once weighed. It's the only structure of its kind in the United States.

Syracuse's cultural offerings include a live performance or concert at the Landmark Theatre. The Central New York Regional Market features hundreds of vendors selling everything from fresh fruit and baked goods to fish for a laid-back afternoon.

5. Albany

  • Population: 96,460
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,726
  • Median Household Income: $45,825
  • Walk Score: 65
  • Transit Score: 54
  • Bike Score: 56

Albany is situated on the banks of the Hudson River and serves as the capital of New York. Albany is also one of the oldest European settlements of the original thirteen colonies. First explored during the early 1600s, the area soon grew into a fur trading post and became a meeting place for representatives of the British North American Colonies.

Albany is home to the manufacturing of felt products, sporting goods, and beer. Finance, insurance, and real estate careers also attract college graduates and Millenials. As the capital of New York, government opportunities are also available around Albany. Unemployment is higher in Albany than in the rest of the country, with a slower projected job growth, but living costs are also more affordable.

Albany's rich history and backdrop make it a stomping ground for gorgeous architecture, history, and culture. The capitol building dates back to the 1800s and resembles an oversized French Chateau, blending Romanesque and French Renaissance. The New York State Museum offers a walk through the history of the area and state. For an art fix, the Albany Institute of Art features regional history and art in a building dating back to 1791. The USS Slater offers tours of a historic ship active in WWI.

In a city that manufactures beer, a pub is never far. Albany is home to Irish-themed distilleries, and bar and grills peppered throughout the downtown area and beyond. Locals can take a scenic stroll or bike ride along the Helderberg Escarpment and Hudson River for an outdoor stop. The Share Albany Pine Bush Preserve also provides a tranquil atmosphere year-round. During winter months, locals bring their snowshoes or skis along a 3,200-acre preserve.

6. Yonkers

  • Population: 200,370
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,797
  • Median Household Income: $63,849
  • Walk Score: 70
  • Transit Score: 54
  • Bike Score: 39

Situated 20-miles outside of New York City, Yonkers was once part of a Dutch 24,000-acre land grant that ran from the Bronx to Marble Hill. This once farming town grew peaches, apples, potatoes, oats, and other agricultural products and shipped them into nearby New York City. Yonkers was eventually incorporated as the Town of Yonkers in 1854 and as a city in 1872.

Yonkers' proximity to New York City and access along the commuter train line makes it desirable for college students, millennials, and families looking for a short commute and urban amenities. However, Yonkers is more than just a bedroom community and features job opportunities in contracting, public school education, healthcare, and retail.

The city boasts a unique blend of nightlife and fun, including Empire City. The casino attracts visitors and locals to its slot machines, horse racing, and dining. Nahmias Et Fils offers distillery tours followed by a tasting of bourbon whiskey, rye whiskey, and fig-based spirits. The Hudson River Museum features a planetarium, art museum, and mansion overlooking the waterfront for an educational stop.

Yonkers is also home to its share of outdoor wonders, like the Untermyer Gardens, despite its urban core. The 46-acre former estate is now a public garden with multiple grandiose gardens. Locals get in some exercise and bike, stroll, and explore the trails of Tibbetts Brook Park.

Final Thoughts - Where Should I Move to in New York?

New York is home to rich American history, urban wonders, and outdoor gems stretching through the Empire State. You'll find everything you want, from nightlife to higher education and robust job opportunities. Ready to see for yourself? Sign up for Apartment List to find the best places to live in New York.

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Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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